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Whole gut microbiome composition of damselfish and cardinalfish before and after reef settlement
Darren J. Parris 1 , Rohan M. Brooker 2 , Michael A. Morgan 1 , Danielle L. Dixson 2 , Frank J. Stewart Corresp. 1 1 School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
2 School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, United States
The Pomacentridae (damselfish) and Apogonidae (cardinalfish) are among the most common fish families on coral reefs and in the aquarium trade. Members of both families undergo a pelagic larvae phase prior to settlement on the reef, where adults play key roles in benthic habitat structuring and trophic interactions. Fish-associated microbial communities (microbiomes) significantly influence fish health and ecology, yet little is known of how microbiomes change with life stage. We quantified the taxonomic (16S rRNA gene) composition of whole gut microbiomes from ten species of damselfish and two species of cardinalfish from Lizard Island, Australia, focusing specifically on comparisons between pelagic larvae prior to settlement on the reef versus post-settlement juvenile and adult individuals. On average, microbiome phylogenetic diversity increased from pre- to post-settlement, and was unrelated to the microbial composition in the surrounding water column. However, this trend varied among species, suggesting stochasticity in fish microbiome assembly. Pre-settlement fish were enriched with bacteria of the Endozoicomonaceae, Shewanellaceae, and Fusobacteriaceae, whereas settled fish harbored higher abundances of Vibrionaceae and Pasteurellaceae. Several individual operational taxonomic units, including ones related to Vibrio harveyi, Shewanella sp., and uncultured Endozoicomonas bacteria, were shared between both pre and post-settlement stages and may be of central importance in the intestinal niche across development. Richness of the core microbiome shared among pre-settlement fish was comparable to that of settled individuals, suggesting that changes in diversity with adulthood are due to the acquisition or loss of host-specific microbes. These results identify a key transition in microbiome structure across host life stage, suggesting changes in the functional contribution of microbiomes over development in two ecologically dominant reef fish families.